December 19, 2021

Behind the US/Worldwide Weekend Box Office – 12.19.2021


OPENINGS:  The spectacular success of SPIDER-MAN: NO WAY HOME (Marvel/Columbia/Sony) may have less to say about the box office overall than some would like to think.  No Way Home vaporized all pandemic-era records with a $253M weekend that was 2.8x the previous Covid high ($90M for Venom: Let There Be Carnage), becoming the #1 movie of the past 2 years in the US in less than 4 full days of release.  Indeed, it paid no mind to the pandemic at all, now the #3 opening of all time behind only Avengers: Endgame and Avengers: Infinity War, with a chance of catching the latter’s $257.7M in final numbers.  However, No Way Home was a mammoth exception to the larger box office malaise, responsible for a reported 92% of all tickets sold over the weekend, and with an audience that was overwhelmingly in the 18-34 demo that’s been driving ticket sales since theaters reopened.  In other words, No Way Home presented the same box office picture we’ve seen all along, only with super powers.  The film also had a fantastic start overseas with $334.2M in 60 territories (not including China, which has recently been unwelcoming to MCU product), and with $587.2M worldwide thus far, it will almost certainly beat the Chinese film The Battle at Lake Changjin and its $902.5M total to become the top film of 2021 worldwide.

An indication of how disconnected No Way Home‘s triumph was to the rest of the box office came with the weekend’s other wide opening:  NIGHTMARE ALLEY (Searchlight/Disney), which couldn’t hit $3M at almost 3300 theaters.  It has virtually no chance of avoiding heavy red ink, another piece of bad news for the hope of a functioning adult-skewing theatrical marketplace.  The film hasn’t yet opened overseas.

HOLDOVERS:  No Way Home left little room at the box office for anything else.  In its 4th and last weekend before expanding to Disney+, ENCANTO (Disney) dropped 35% to $6.5M, and should get past $100M in the US with the help of the holidays.  It has $94M overseas.

Any thoughts that WEST SIDE STORY (20th/Disney) could sustain a Greatest Showman-type holiday build were dashed with a crushing 68% Weekend 2 drop to $3.4M, dooming the expensive musical to big losses.  The film may not rise much higher than $30M in the US, and it has $9.1M overseas.

GHOSTBUSTERS: AFTERLIFE (Columbia/Sony) fell 52% to $3.4M in its 5th weekend, on its way to $130M in the US, and with $56.4M overseas, numbers that may carry it a bit past breakeven.

HOUSE OF GUCCI (UA/MGM) lost 55% to $1.9M in its 4th weekend, and will hope to see $55M in the US, a high-water mark for adult drama this year.  It’s reached $61.3M overseas.

ETERNALS (Marvel/Disney) wasn’t the MCU installment of choice this weekend, down 62% to $1.2M in its 7th weekend and likely to end up south of $170M in the US.  It has $236.1M overseas.

LIMITED RELEASE:  The Indian-language sector of the market remains a small but robust niche, with PUSHPA: THE RISE (Hamsini) at $1.3M in just 400 theaters.  RED ROCKET (A24) more than doubled its theaters to 16 but still fell 8%, making for a $5K per-theater weekend average that was down 66% from last week.  DRIVE MY CAR (Janus), a darling of critics’ awards season, averaged $1700 at 27.  JULIA (Sony Classics) widened to 257 with a nearly invisible $75 average.

NEXT WEEK:  On Wednesday, a trio of sequels will try to grab the crumbs from No Way Home‘s plate:  THE MATRIX RESURRECTIONS (Warners, also on HBO Max), SING 2 (Illumination/Universal) and THE KING’S MAN (20th/Disney).  On Christmas Day, they’ll be joined by the smaller-scale A JOURNAL FOR JORDAN (Columbia/Sony) and AMERICAN UNDERDOG (Lionsgate), along with the wide release of LICORICE PIZZA (UA/MGM).  Limited releases include THE TENDER BAR (Amazon), THE TRAGEDY OF MACBETH (Apple/A24) and PARALLEL MOTHERS (Sony Classics).

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."